Public attention was primarily focused on the failed marijuana bill last week, but out of that spotlight some things were actually accomplished.
The budget and revenue bills were approved with a number of small victories including slowing the rate of budget growth, using no “one time” money for ongoing obligations, and hiring more social workers to help families and particularly children wrecked by the opiate epidemic. The budget balanced heavy pressure on state agencies to both reduce overall staff and to run more efficiently, while providing modest and long overdue increases for state colleges, home weatherization, and Parent-Child centers. These are all areas that pay back the money invested many times over.
Other legislation passed gives towns more say in siting wind and solar energy projects, provides paid sick days for many Vermonters who previously did not have them, provides for automatic voter registration, and makes it less onerous for people whose drivers licenses have been suspended (for non-payment of fines and often for non-traffic related offenses) to regain them. These reforms aren’t splashy or sexy, but they represent the steady – if incremental – progress that government is supposed to do.